All the signs are pointing to a high risk of Lyme disease this year, and no state except Hawaii is safe. That’s harsh news for anyone who loves to be outdoors—even in your own backyard! How do scientists know it’s going to be a big year for Lyme disease, and why are more and more people suffering long-term consequences from an often undetected tick bite?
It all starts with the lowly acorn.
A big crop of acorns means mice will have a plentiful food supply and that translates to a mouse population boom. Keeping track of the number of acorns and mice, along with yearly weather conditions, gives scientists an indication of the potential severity and reach of Lyme disease in any given year. Here’s how the domino effect happens: Ticks’ primary source for food is the blood of white-footed mice. The rodent’s blood contains bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. As the ticks feed, the bacteria is transferred, allowing them to pass the disease to wherever they latch on to next¾including humans. Unfortunately, the acorn trend of 2017 points to a high risk of Lyme’s disease this year. That’s why it’s important to understand this mysterious disease.
A Very Tiny Foe
It’s hard to fight a foe you can hardly see! No bigger than a poppy seed, a tick bite can often go unnoticed. But, because a bite can result in vague symptoms and inconsistent outcomes, Lyme disease has been baffling the medical community for years. Although described as a sickness more than 130 years ago in Germany, the symptoms of this disease were only acknowledged in the U.S. in the 1970s.
Lyme disease is named after the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, where several cases were first identified in 1975. Local mothers joined forces and began to create a ruckus after many of the town’s people, including children, began to experience the same symptoms: severe chronic fatigue, joint aches, skin rashes, and headache. It was enough of a stir to cause the medical community to take notice. Even though everything pointed to a commonality of symptoms, the cause of the disease was still unclear. That changed when Dr. Willy Burgdorfer made the connection between ticks and the town’s mysterious symptoms while studying another tick-borne illness, Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The Invisible Illness
When caught in the early stages, the standard course of treatment for Lyme disease has been a round of antibiotics¾which has worked for some people. Unfortunately, early onset symptoms can mimic many other things like the flu, arthritis, and lupus, making the window of early treatment easy to miss.
Even if your doctor suspects Lyme disease, getting an accurate diagnosis can be tricky. Lyme disease is one of the most rapidly growing infectious diseases across the U.S. and Europe. In fact, more people are diagnosed with Lyme disease than with breast cancer, HIV, colon cancer, and hepatitis C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 30,000 cases of the disease each year nationwide. However, that number is misleading. It’s estimated that only 1 in 10 cases of Lyme disease are officially reported because of variations in testing accuracy—common testing methods miss 35 to 40 percent of the cases.
But with proper diagnosis, early treatment can save someone from a lifetime of pain and trouble. Left untreated, the disease can affect the skin, joints, nervous system, heart, and eyes, leading to problems like joint pain and cardiac issues to name a few. Symptoms include headaches, neck stiffness, muscle and joint pain, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat. The debilitating and chronic symptoms—often controversial in medical and insurance circles—can be attributed to the disease hiding and spreading within the body long after the initial bite, even taking years to show up. Adding insult to injury, doctors who don’t believe in the long-term effects dismiss many Lyme patients. After more commonly known problems are ruled out, these patients are referred to psychiatrists, with doctors believing the problem is “in their head.”
Awareness and Action Are Critical
Because diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease can be so difficult, aim for prevention. Avoid tick-infested areas like leaf piles and long grasses. Walk in the middle of trails and don’t sit on logs or stumps. Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks. Tuck in everything! Tuck your shirt into your pants, and your pants into your socks. Wear closed-toe shoes and a hat. Check for ticks after being outdoors, and for several days afterward, including your bedding. Don’t forget to check the kids and pets, too.
Once a tick is on a human body it must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before the bacteria is transmitted. Finding a tick quickly is a critical first step in stopping the disease from occurring. They seek out dark crevices of the body like the armpit, behind the ear, or on the scalp. If an attached tick looks swollen with blood, take action. That may have been long enough to transmit the dreaded bacteria. Remove the tick properly and as soon as possible to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.
While you may have heard about a “bulls-eye” rash that is rumored to develop if you have been infected, that’s an unreliable indicator. Lyme disease doesn’t always present itself this way. Less than half of those infected develop the rash. And, with ticks being so small, fewer than half of Lyme patients can recall experiencing any kind of tick encounter. If you suspect that you have been exposed to a bite for any reason, seek medical advice. Early treatment shows the highest success rate in eradicating the disease.
Answers Beyond the Confusion
While the medical community is still struggling with the best way to treat Lyme disease—and patients are still looking for solutions—choosing to strengthen your body at a cellular level can help fight any bacteria that attacks healthy cells, including the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. A good place to begin is to supplement with a master antioxidant and a master anti-inflammatory.
The Master Antioxidant: Glutathione. Because glutathione is central to a multitude of cellular processes that protect the body’s DNA from damage, including it as part of a Lyme regimen is an intuitive choice. Glutathione can help protect the joints and muscles, liver, lungs, brain, heart, and nervous system—areas that need extra help when an inflammatory condition like Lyme disease limits the body’s ability to combat oxidative stress. This master antioxidant can help repair damage by eliminating toxins and regulating the antioxidant response. These are all-important functions while fighting the disease. Glutathione levels decrease with age and also with stress. They can also become depleted when you’re fighting the disease. Polish researchers found that, while antibiotics often helped Lyme patients recover, the drugs depleted glutathione levels. It’s a catch-22 and a further indication that glutathione supplementation is appropriate for Lyme disease. Seek out an oral glutathione supplement if you are dealing with Lyme disease or if you plan to spend time in an area where ticks could be prevalent. Pick a bioavailable product that ensures stability with the reduced active form of glutathione. A non-active glutathione supplement, even with an enteric coating, won’t accomplish the goal of raising glutathione levels in the body.
A Master Anti-Inflammatory: Curcumin. Able to reduce chronic inflammation by neutralizing free radicals, curcumin may also increase glutathione levels. Curcumin, the key compound in turmeric, acts on multiple pathways to provide support for cellular health in all the body’s systems. Apart from the uptick in cellular activity in someone dealing with Lyme disease, there’s also pain from symptom flare-ups. A highly absorbable curcumin can be a great help in this area. Choose a product with BCM-95 curcumin, which is especially effective when blended with turmerones from turmeric essential oil. The additional support from botanicals like a standardized boswellia, DLPA (DL-phenylalanine), and nattokinase can provide much needed relief. The dual anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits make this nutritional combination a must for anyone with Lyme disease.
With the prevalence of Lyme disease on the rise—and so much disagreement and confusion about how to deal with it—paying close attention to overall cellular health on a daily basis is vital.
Tips for Tick Removal
- Remain calm, don’t panic.
- Pull straight upward and out with fine-tipped tweezers, starting as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Use a steady, even pressure. Don‘t twist or jerk.
- After removal, wash the affected area and your hands with soap and water.
- Squeeze the tick’s body while it is attached to your skin.
- Crush a tick with your fingers.
- Wait for the tick to detach. Remove it as soon as possible.
- Use unproven methods for removal like matches or petroleum jelly.
To dispose of the tick: submerse it in alcohol, wrap and seal tightly in tape or flush down the toilet. Some groups recommend saving the tick for testing by placing it in a sealed container with a moist, but not wet, cotton ball. There are also a multitude of tick-removal kits available.
Twelve Worst States for Lyme Disease
4) Rhode Island
6) New Jersey
9) New Hampshire
12) New York